ABN AMRO ONE back in the lead on approach to Eclipse Island. Team movistar carry out repairs but contemplate pitstop - 16/1/06

Having briefly lost the lead of the Volvo Ocean Race over the weekend to AMRO TWO Mike Sanderson’s ABN AMRO ONE are back in control. They managed to break through the high pressure ridge into the new wind and the current weather pattern should provide a relatively easy run towards the scoring gate at Eclipse Island. This morning’s positioning shows Seb Josse and team on ABN AMRO TWO now just 13 miles astern. Sailing at similar speeds at just over 14kts the top three boats are just 42 miles apart. Movistar in third place have, over the weekend, had to carry out emergency repairs to there hydraulic ram.

In a report yesterday Team movistar was 450 miles away from Eclipse Island when they discovered a hydraulic ram failure. Bouwe Bekking commented: “Last night [Saturday] when sound asleep Pepe woke me up, and told me the news. First I though you must be kidding, it is only blowing 12 knots, and there are hardly any waves. But when I saw the carnage my stomach turned.

“Six 10 mm stainless bolts had sheared clean off just behind their heads, and the oil was pouring out of the cylinder. Quickly the boys isolated the ram, so we were only sailing on the starboard ram. As a safety precaution, we have a setting that the keel will never be angled more than 20 degrees, when sailing on one ram. You can push all the buttons you want, have the hydraulic motor running full revs, but the pressure relief valves will open and prevent putting a lot of pressure on the ram.

“First thought; not another mishap again. Then Chris Nicholson came with a complicated, but brilliant plan. Try to fix the ram with other bolts and hope that the seals inside the ram are not too damaged. Lots of arguments against it, and some of the guys were, fairly enough, strong in their opinion not to go down that road. But I made the call to follow Chris’s plan. This meant that the ram had to be taken out of its foundation to reach the problem area. With still a risk that we wouldn’t be able to get the remainder of the broken threads out of the metal.

“Good team work of Xabi (Xabier Fernandez), Pepe (Pepe Ribes) and Mikey (Mike Joubert), as not only had the ram to be taken out, but the water-maker as well. Plus the so-called wet box had to be opened, to reach the clevis pin. You have to disconnect the ram from the keel head, otherwise you can’t get the ram out, but this means water can freely run into the boat. You try to fix one problem, and you open another can of worms. And of course like always, pitch dark outside, so even darker inside movistar.

“In the mean time the others kept sailing the boat as fast as possible. I was on the phone with race headquarters and setting up plan for the worse case scenario. Won’t get into details until later. But I can tell you that the jury repairs went ok, but we are in need of more serious size bolts.”

Team movistar have not yet decided if they’ll head to the port of Albany to carry out the repair. They would still be able to collect points at the scoring gate before heading to shore to swap the bolts before completing the final 1,300 nautical miles or so to the finish at Melbourne.